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Messages - enso

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Equipment and Software / Re: Refractometer.....
« on: April 26, 2011, 04:25:23 PM »
Wow, that is not bad.  $30 and free shipping?  I just wish they had the Brix/Specific Gravity for that price.  I know, learn to use brix...   ::)

I asked for a refractometer for my birthday and suggested Cynmar.  They have the Brix/S.G. version for $50.  Oh well, someone else is paying (I hope!  knock wood)

Ingredients / playing with birch sap
« on: April 26, 2011, 01:22:47 PM »
I have been maple sugarin' for a couple of years.  Not a big production just a haphazard backyard rig.  It's been fun and I have incorporated sap and syrup in beers in different ways.  Oh and one wine.  Maple sherry anyone?

I have wanted to play around with birch for a while as well.  Currently we are living in a house with quite a few birch trees so I went for it this year.  Not a whole lot of practical info out there that I could find so I am sharing some of my findings thus far for anyone who wants to try collecting and utilizing birch sap.

I said playing because I have been far from scientific about it.  Hardly measuring and not being at all methodical.  Maybe next year...

So, to start tapping.  I tapped one birch at the same time I tapped my maples.  I was a bit late tapping this year at around the 3rd week of March.  When I bored the hole on the birch it was dry.  Usually when you tap a maple at the right time sap begins to come out as you are boring the hole.  Bone dry the birch was.  Not even moisture on the shavings.  I popped a spigot in anyways and hung a bucket just in case.  I checked it each day as I emptied the maple buckets.  Nada.  I tried another hole in case the first was just not in a good spot.  I.e., not sunny enough, not over a good main root etc...  Still nothing.

Fast forward a few weeks.  April has begun the maples are slowing down and I have finished boiling so I pulled the taps.  I notice from my kitchen window dark gray lines on the birch coming form the hole s I left.  Sap has started to flow.  I would say it was maybe the second week of April?  Again, not methodical at all!  So I put the spigots back in and hung 2 buckets.  I figured I would collect a little and boil it down some and see what it tasted like anyway.  I knew I was not going to have enough to make any syrup.  The sugar concentration is much lower than maple.  I was getting around 1.002 for gravity.  I have heard it takes up to 100 gallons of birch sap to make 1 gallon of syrup! 

Since I had started to believe it was not going to work I did not have a plan of what to do so I really was not into it once it started actually flowing.  It was still freezing at night at this point and I had some of the buckets freeze nearly solid as I was rather lax about emptying them everyday.  I figured I would use that to my advantage as that helps to concentrate sugars before boiling.  I started intentionally freezing and discarding ice.  Did not help a whole lot but it brought the concentration up to about 1.008 with a big decrease in volume.  It is not the most effective concentration method as you will always loose some sugar in the ice you throw out.

Eventually I decided on a purpose for the sap.  As I would not collect a lot overall and boiling it to concentrate would further reduce volume I decided to make a 1 gallon batch of a hydromel.  I figured a low gravity mead would allow some of the flavor (if any where to remain) to still be detected.  Very haphazardly I collected sap, froze some boiled other bits...  If this turns out well I will NOT be able to repeat it.   ::)

I added an unmeasured amount of honey...   :-[  Whatever was left in the pint mason jar I had...   ;D

Gravity was 1.041.  At least I measured something!  We shall see how it goes.

I continued to collect about 3 gallons of further sap.  Pulled the plug yesterday.  More on that in a moment.  I boiled that down to a little under a quart.  I figured I would top up the hydromel with some of it.  This morning I took a gravity reading and I'll be damned!  It smelled like unhopped wort!  It was @ 1.056 for gravity.  I thought perhaps I grabbed the wrong mason jar out of the fridge at first.  I tasted it.  It definintley had a very bready malty wort flavor but I could also taste the birch flavors.  I am having trouble describing those.  Sort of a slight rootbeer candy taste and a ever so slight bit of sour.  For some reason I want to say horehound candy though I don't believe I have ever had any.   ???  I guess just some type of old fashioned candy that is...  No wait!  I got it!  Riccola!  The cough drops!  Yeah!  That is the flavor mixed with wort!  Interesting...

Okay so I have rambled on for a long with lot's of possibly unusable info...   :-\

One last point.  I had read from folks talking about tapping birch that you need to plug the hole when ou are done.  Never done that for maple.  I usually always heals itself.  I thought maybe it was just a precaution and not actually necessary.  However, the trees did not seem to be slowing down.  They were still gushing pretty good.  They seem to really flow when it rains, and no it was not rain water filling the bucket.  So I stoppered them with a stick that I whittled the bark off of and cut flush to the tree.Then I rubbed parrafin and melted it slightly with a lighter.  Bee wax would probably have been better.  Unfortunately the sapped started to weep through anyway!  I will keep checking them.  Hopefully I do not damage the trees.

Next year perhaps some more controlled data will be collected!   ;D

ha, nice one.  A few questions.  So I notice what I think is plexi coming down from the hood vent?  I assume that is to create more suction?  Do you bump your head getting in there?   ;)

Are those firebricks or just concrete pavers under your mlt?  Good solution either way when using a wood stand.  I have slight charring over time on my mobile brew stand as the base is wood.  Might look into something like that myself.

What do you use the cooktop for specifically?

and finally last question.  How did you vent the hood.  Does it go through the foundation or the sill?

I have tried brewing in the basement but it became clear very quickly that it was a bad idea.  I have a walk out basement and I set up the brew stand by the door with it open and a flan blowing out.  Not effective.  We are possibly installing a HRV system for radon mitigation.  I wonder if that along with an exhaust fan lie yours would provide sufficient ventilation.   Hmmm...

Anyway, thanks for sharing.  Happy brewing!

Commercial Beer Reviews / Re: Canned Microbrews
« on: April 21, 2011, 06:42:07 PM »
I agree.  I just picked up a mixed 12 pack of Butternuts.  My reaction was meh, to Bleh!  Pretty weak beers.  It seems they only pack in cans and draft.  They seem to be more about novelty and marketing than quality.  My kids thought it was soda based on the can designs!

I have noticed more cans of late also.  I have mixed feelings about it.  I kind of like the novelty, but I am still not wholly convinced it is a good idea.  It certainly does not seem to be from a price perspective!  When I picked up the Butternuts I noticed they had some Oskar blues also (Old chubb and Dale's).  It was $14 for a 6 pack!!!  I have also seen Cisco (out of Nantucket) beers in a 12 pack for $19!!!  I have yet to try a beer of theirs I would buy again so there is no way I'll pay $19 for a 12 pack of cans!

Perhaps cans are better protection, perhaps not.  They don't seem to be more cost effective than glass from what I have seen though.  This despite recent spikes in glass prices.

Commercial Beer Reviews / Re: Ommegang Three Philosopher's
« on: April 21, 2011, 06:23:19 PM »
The story of it's creation, including Noel Blake's essay are in Brew like a Monk.  Also a recipe.

I love this beer.  I have had some that were better than others but I believe it is age related.  It is my opinion that it gets better with age.  Most of the older bottles I have had were more complex, and vinous.  The flavors melded much better.  I tend to look for the oldest bottle I can when I buy it or buy it and age it myself.

I want to say they use 2% liefman's kreik.  Though maybe it is Lindemans cherry soda, er I mean kriek. (yuck)...

Commercial Beer Reviews / Re: Orval - disappointed
« on: April 21, 2011, 06:14:31 PM »
could the nitrogen merely be an attempt to prevent oxidation.  Just blasting the headspace with nitrogen before capping?  Why nitrogen instead of just co2 I dunno.  Just a thought.  Any inert gas could be used I suppose.

Equipment and Software / Re: Where to buy tasting glasses like this?
« on: April 21, 2011, 05:27:53 PM »
Wow, weird.  Check out what I found at the thrift store yesterday.

Here is a darker shot along with the other glass I described above.

Okay, so it ain't exactly the same glass but I dig these.  I got four for .50 each.  I love the thrift store.  I have WAY too many glasses.  Though I break many too, so...

Equipment and Software / Re: Where to buy tasting glasses like this?
« on: April 20, 2011, 02:37:05 PM »
As it is a "branded" glass you may not be able to get a hold of the exact shaped glass as a plain glass if that is what you are looking for.  Many breweries have (especially Belgian) specific glassware created for their beers.  Even if you could identify the actual manufacturer of the glasses it is unlikely they would sell you plain glasses.  Not economically anyways...   :o

I have some glasses that I love that are similar.  They are like wine glasses without a stem.  They just have the flat base and the bowl of the glass right on top.  I got them at TJ Maxx.  They work great for many styles of beer.  As far as a "tasting" glass they are rather large.  They hold about 12 fl oz..  The glass in the picture you posted appears to hold 25 cl (~8.5 fl. oz.) at the mark, so it would appear it also will hold at least 12 fl.oz total if not more.  I think of tasting glasses as 4-6 oz.

Okay here tis'.

Also needed to clean 'er  out afore I took some photos...   ::)

Hope that is enough visual to pin point an issue.  I believe that is high enough above the carboy but perhaps not?


Ahh how I miss springtime mud season in vermont. Hope you have a good sump pump!

Ha!  Yup.  Landlord added a french drain in the back of the house last fall to "fix" this problem.  Working great so far.   ;)

Fortunately there is a working floor drain in the brew room where the leak is.  Soon as we finish buying the house from the landlord I will rip the carpet out that is covering it!!!

I will attempt to post some pictures later.  I went to do so only to discover the basement is flooding.   :o

Have to take care of that first.   ::)

To respond to a few suggestions.  Yes, I forgot to mention I have tried it without the scrubby.  Yes I have tried it with water only.  It worked one time and not another.  I have cleaned out the ball valve by running a dip tube type brush through it plus running a hose backward through it.  Looks clear.

I will get picks so you folks can help diagnose before I rebuild.

Equipment and Software / Got them boil kettle pickup blues again...
« on: April 14, 2011, 03:24:28 PM »
dang it!

I invest in a kettle valve (no weld) to make my life easier.  Has it?  Hell no!  >:(

What I have:  A converted sanke keg.  Stainless ball lock weldless, from bargain fittings.  My pickup tube is 1/2" soft copper soldered to a copper male npt fitting which is screwed into the stainless coupling.  The pickup is bent down to the center of the kettle bottom.  I usually stuff a stainless scrubby under it to do some coarse filtering.

What happens:
Sometimes it drains okay, sometimes not.  There does not seem to be any rhyme or reason.  It can not flow when there is only a 5 gallon batch or a ten gallon.  It might flow fine with a lot of hops and not at all with a malty low hopped beer.  Generally I end up scooping or using my auto siphon.

What I have done to fix it so far:
I have tried a longer piece of hose attached to the hose barb on the outside of the kettle to lower the outlet of the liquid.  I have tried it with and without the venturi device on the end of the vinyl hose outlet.  I have resoldered the pickup connection, it seems solid.  I have used teflon tape on the threads.  I attempted to bend the tube even closer to the bottom.  I have used a large hop bag (5 gallon paint strainer suspended in the kettle.

I just bought a new piece of soft copper tubing and am going to try to redo it in hopes of a better outcome.  I was thinking perhaps I should position the diptube to the side instead of the bottom.  Any idea here folks or did I waste my money and time on a drain and just g back to the old autosiphon.  Which by the way could be hit or miss also!

If I left out any crucial info let me know.  I can try and take pictures at some point to if that would help.  I just want to be able to drain my beer int the fermenter without cursing the whole time.  Is that so much to ask!!!

Kegging and Bottling / Re: What the...! Exploding keg!
« on: March 06, 2011, 01:12:03 AM »
hmmm.  No, I am not familiar with that trick.  Maybe that was it.  The beer was totally calm when I first opened the keg.  Some bubbles on the surface but it wasn't foaming until the baster started to draw liquid.

Kegging and Bottling / Re: What the...! Exploding keg!
« on: March 06, 2011, 12:05:44 AM »
Carbonation level was fine.   I dunno about 2.5 volumes I would guess, about where I had left it.  Again, it did not taste infected in anyway once I finally got the sample.  Guess I will keep an eye on it.

Oh, I forgot to mention one factor that prompted me to post this in the first place.  The beer never gave me a headache last spring or all summer when I drank it.  It was not until this winter that it started to do that to me.

Funny thing is I brewed a golden strong not long after this tripel using overall a similar recipe about same percentage of sugar (only straight cane instead) and it is awesome.  Very drinkable.

I don't know.  Go figure.

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